Created By: West Berkshire Archaeology Service
Almost immediately past the redwood trees is a short stretch of brick wall. Have a look at the east side of the wall where there is a diagonal line up it.
Believe it or not, this is one of the oldest surviving features of the garden and probably dates to the 16th century. It looks as if there were steps here up to the top of the bank or terrace that you can see running around the edge of the garden, or perhaps part of a pavilion that people could sit inside or even a banqueting house! The terrace is made of chalk rubble and earth and was built with a flat walkway, or promenade, along the top for people to look down from and have good views of the gardens. It was built in the 16th century and was probably originally much wider than it is now.
During the English Civil War (1642-51), Shaw House was the headquarters of Charles I’s army during the Second Battle of Newbury in October 1644. The terrace may have been used by soldiers to hide behind during the fighting.
The terrace and boundaries of the garden are shown on the Speen Manor map. They were very fashionable! This style of laying out gardens in regular, symmetrical designs was supposed to show harmony and order, and people’s control over nature. The rectangular shapes were divided into squares or quarters called ‘compartments’ or ‘parterres’ using low hedges, and filled with elaborate plant beds and decorative flowerbeds. You can have a go at designing your own version for Shaw House here: www.westberkshireheritage.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Shaw-House-garden.pdf!
Today, parts of the terrace are left to grow wild for biodiversity and the yew trees that were planted on them in the 18th century, which would have originally been clipped and carefully maintained, have grown tall and bushy. The terrace would have been damaged when the yew trees were planted, but perhaps now they also protect the bank from being weathered away.
If the gardens were restored to how they once looked in the past, which century of their history would you choose?
Continue along the concrete path, heading east through the trees. Follow it as it turns left until you reach the end and it becomes a tarmacked path near a bicycle shelter. The remains of a brick and concrete structure are in the ground to your left.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Shaw House and St Mary's Church Conservation Area